Between 2017 and 2019, there were 6,988 reports of sexual assault in Singapore, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs. This includes rape, sexual assault by penetration, outrage of modesty and sexual offences involving children and vulnerable victims.
Worryingly, the number of cases seems to be rising every year. AWARE‘s Sexual Assault Care Centre (SACC) has seen 515, 808, 777 and 967 new cases from 2017 to 2020, respectively, according to Shailey Hingorani, AWARE’s Head of Research and Advocacy.
According to SACC, around seven in 10 clients choose not to report their experience to authorities. This means that we’ll never truly know the prevalence of sexual violence in Singapore as it’s clearly underreported.
The issue of sexual assault made the news again in early November when Workers’ Party Member of Parliament Raeesah Khan admitted to lying in Parliament about details of a sexual assault case. During a Parliamentary debate on empowering women in August, she shared a story about how she had accompanied a 25-year-old rape victim to make a police report three years ago, and was met with inappropriate comments by the police officer who interviewed the victim, thus alleging the case was mishandled by the police.
On November 1, she retracted that anecdote and apologised in Parliament to the Singapore Police Force. She explained she had made up those details as she wasn’t brave enough to admit that she was part of a support group for women who had been victims of sexual assault, which she had experienced when she was 18. The story had been shared by another woman in the support group, and Raeesah wasn’t directly involved in the incident.
As a result, she was hauled up to face the Committee of Privileges, which looks into any complaint alleging breaches of parliamentary privilege. Leader of the House Indranee Rajah said Raeesah’s allegations did a “great disservice” to the survivors of sexual assault and rape. AWARE said in a Facebook post that, despite believing that Raeesah’s intentions were sound, they were disappointed that she lied about the details of the situation.
While her story was fabricated, there’s no denying that sexual harassment and assault issues deserve more discourse in Singapore.